The phrase “More can be achieved when working together” was evident during the two-day dialogue convened by the Biodiversity and Land Use (BLU) project as different partners showcased their contribution towards sustaining natural landscapes for the benefit of people and the economy.

The current global pandemic has created space for innovation, resulting in the BLU project convening the successful ‘Partnerships for Sustainable Landscapes’ dialogue on 2 and 3 December online. The Dialogue saw over 170 delegates in attendance over the two days representing various partner institutions.

The purpose of the dialogue was twofold, firstly to showcase how working in partnerships and collaborating across government entities can deliver benefits for biodiversity. Secondly, to enhance our landscape value proposition through exploring different kinds of partnerships as well as demonstrating how these can contribute to building resilient and sustainable landscapes.

The first day of the dialogue started with an opening session that set the scene for the respective content sessions. SANBI’s Acting CEO, Ms Carmel Mbizvo opened and welcomed attendees to the dialogue, while the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Director: Biodiversity Conservation, Ms Mukondi Masithi provided an input on South Africa’s biodiversity mainstreaming journey. Dr Janice Golding, Focal Point: Nature, Climate and Energy from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reflected on the 25 year biodiversity conservation partnership between SANBI and the UNDP, and Ms Azisa Parker, BLU project leader reflected on the five years of implementing the project.

The opening session also featured an eye opening and inspiring keynote address by Ms Ndoni Mcuni, CEO of Black Women in Science, an NGO focused providing capacity development and mentorship opportunities for black women in the science field.

The dialogue then moved to discussions around various content themes with session two focusing on ‘biodiversity for sustainable development’, session three on ‘community conservation: enabling the biodiversity economy and key insights from the Land Reform and Biodiversity Stewardship Initiative’s Strategic Review’. Discussions in session four centred around ‘sustainable land and natural resource management practices that makes good business sense’. Partners shared their achievements and activities through panel discussions, one on one interviews, short films and presentations throughout the various sessions.

On 3 December, the two-day dialogue concluded with a closing session chaired by SANBI’s Chief Director: Policy and Information Management, Ms Deshni Pillay who summarised the discussions that took place over the two days, emphasising how impactful partnerships can be in meaningfully shifting and advancing the work in the sector. This session also focused on how some of the gains made by the partners through the BLU project will be sustained, such as the Ecological Infrastructure work, the tax incentives work as well as the biodiversity stewardship work.

The successful implementation of the project relied heavily on both direct and indirect partnerships that was created with 119 partner organisations, whose different skills, expertise and mandates were explored; policies and processes were influenced to enable the mainstreaming biodiversity.

Some of the highlights of the BLU project that emerged at the event included: the more than R325 million that has been leveraged for biodiversity activities, the more than 800 jobs created, which aided to alleviate the human resource capacity constraints on many partners; and the co-creation of various policy products, frameworks and tools for the integration of biodiversity into different government processes and agricultural and forestry value chains, to mention a few.

Ms Azisa Parker reflected that ‘while some project activities have been impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic, to date the project has achieved 11 of its 22 end of project targets, of which 6 have been exceeded. All indications are that the project is on track to achieving most of its end of project targets by project end.

Interactions at the dialogue were also shared on various social media platforms with active engagements on twitter under the #P4SL and #BLUdialogue2020.

Please click here for presentations, short films and resources shared during the event.

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